Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brilliant Things

“As you write, trust the disconnections and the gaps. If you have written what your eye first saw and you are stopped, see again. See something else. Take a leap to another image. Don’t require of yourself that you understand the connection. Some of the most brilliant things that happen in fiction occur when the writer allows what seems to be a disconnected image to lead him or her away from the line that was being taken.”
John Steinbeck

Monday, February 27, 2012

Waiting Days #1

A confession. I have a case of nerves. In the coming days, I'll be finding out about the future of a couple of projects I have been working on for much longer than is healthy. So, this week has a Looney Tunes anvil hanging over it and I'm feeling the acute pangs of the waiting game.


After a sordid weekend of too much revelry, I spent last night watching one of my favourite films, Alfonso Cuarón's 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' and had my love for it completely reinvigorated by it's melancholy, messy humour and desire. I then fell into an exhausted stupor and dreamt all night that I was taking photographs in a strange, mist-soaked coastal village full of people with warm but incredibly odd faces; bulging eyes, angular cheek bones, jutting adam's apples. As I printed the photos of faces, mist, and craggy coastlines, I kept making mistakes with paper and chemicals but each accident made the photograph something quite beautiful. Then, as the dream dissipated, the first thing I thought of when I woke up, bleary-eyed, was, inexplicably, Frida Kahlo. What a fucking great way to start the week. Humble thanks.

“no moon, sun, diamond, hands —
fingertip, dot, ray, gauze, sea.
pine green, pink glass, eye,
mine, eraser, mud, mother, I am coming.”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Live

Many people I know have quotes or small passages of writing hanging in their studios, offices or bedrooms. Small touchstones that remind them how to live. A friend of mine once scribbled a date that he had experienced a realisation onto a piece of A4 paper and stuck it on his wall.  It hung there til it yellowed and aged. One of my first girlfriends, who had beautiful handwriting, had this short passage from T.S. Eliot's Preludes written in dancing letters onto a scrap of paper that sat next to her electric typewriter. 
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
Many years back, along with a few friends, we made a film called the Oscar Wilde Projects in which a whole host of people told us their passages or quotes. They were beautiful and illuminating and inspiring. Those small things we cling to that remind us how to live are jewels that shimmer inside us. I, personally, got a tattoo when I was very young of an ancient glyph printed above a particularly significant passage in a very sexy publication of Eduardo Galeano's 'Genesis'. Like the passage itself, this aging, blue-ing, smeared tattoo - raised from the skin in keloid scarring - always reminds me how to live. But, alongside this, for many years it was a small excerpt from Philippe Djian's novel 'Betty Blue' that always sat on my desk as my real anchor in life:
“Over Dispersal, I choose Concentration. I have one life—the only thing I’m interested in is making it shine.”  
It was always a small, good thing that kept me on track. I copied it from the book when I first read it but I lost the post-it note on which I wrote it during one of many moves. I have absent-mindedly searched the book many times since to ensure my memory of the text was accurate and have never been able to find the passage in the context of the book. Until today. It's 38 degrees in the shade and, while lying in front of the lilting, tilting fan, I only had the energy to reach onto the book shelf, grab the book and flick through the pages with a heat sodden gaze. And, I found it again. What I didn't remember about this passage is that the paragraphs immediately preceding it are also worth thinking on and preserving. It really is a beautiful, crystalline bit of prose. It still is a great piece of advice on how to live.
“I turned my back to her. I felt a slight burning on the back of my neck.

“Listen to me,” I went on. “I never was much for fucking around, I never got much out of it. I know that everybody else does it; but it’s no fun if you just do like everybody else. To tell you the truth, it bores me, It does you good to live according to your ideas, to not betray yourself, not cop out at the last minute just because some girl has a nice ass, or someone offers you a huge check, or because the path of least resistance runs by your front door. It does you good to hang tough. It’s good for the soul.”

I turned around to tell her the Big Secret; “Over Dispersal, I choose Concentration. I have one life—the only thing I’m interested in is making it shine.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Romance #5

"Youth will always prefer love to money. Such daring, such love of danger. It can be seen in a look, in a walk, in a smile. It's in all of us. Such violence is a kind of peace."*

Image and words: J-L-G

*I know I've used this many times before but, damn, it's a good quote.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Romance #4

La Noche. 1.

No consigo dormir. Tengo una mujer atravesada entre los párpados. Si pudiera, le diría que se vaya; pero tengo una mujer atravesada en la garganta. 

La Noche. 2.

Arránqueme, Señora, las ropas y las dudas. Desnúdeme, desdúdeme.

La Noche. 3.

Yo me duermo a la orilla de una mujer: yo me duermo a la orilla de un abismo.

La Noche. 4.

Me desprendo del abrazo, salgo a la calle.
En el cielo, ya clareando, se dibuja, finita, la luna.
La luna tiene dos noches de edad.
Yo, una.

Image - Patrick Zachmann
Text - from the infinitely revealing pages of Eduardo Galeano's 'The Book of Embraces'/'El Libro de los Abrazos'


"I have to tell you, you know, if you are a real filmmaker you have to have your own style, your own language. Which is depending on your cultural background, your history, and your budget of course, and a lot of things what you already have. Because as I see, what I think, filmmaking is a kind of reaction to the world—you’re just telling people how you see the world, from your point of view of course. But, you know, that’s the reason why I do not listen for the other circumstances, what the other people are doing—because it’s impossible to follow someone, impossible to say OK this is a trend, or what we would like to keep it or—it’s definitely fake, wrong way. You have to be yourself, you have to tell everything from your side and you do have to have your own language; and if you have your own language you don’t care about the world and anything really and that’s what I feel, what I learned"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Romance #3

For most of my adult life I've believed that if you wanted to find the real poetry of human writing (and, indeed, human existence), you would go seeking the places where words are written for the smallest audiences. Love letters, revenge letters, lusty or urgent texts, angry emails, absent minded scribblings or drunken reminders, midnight dream notes and interrupted grocery lists. Of course, words have beauty and grandeur in their formal arrangements - a novel, a poem, an essay, or a letter that the writer knows will be archived. But, for someone like me, who loves baseness, who likes mess and the accidents that come with handmade experiences, there are few things that have the precision and poetry of a letter written in the depths of lust or love. Recently, flavorwire collected a bunch of the best dirty love letters from great writers. The entire collection, including letters from Bukowski, Woolf, Wharton and Hemingway, is worth your time, but I wanted to republish two here. Because. They. Are. Fucking. Incredible. All the shackles of language are loosened to let the force of emotion and desire crawl over the page like some naked hungry beast. Loosen your shirt and let these do their work on you. And, if you're easily offended be sure to read the James Joyce several times over. It's like reading the Marquis de Sade. It loses it's ability to shock after you've read enough of it. And, while Kafka is aching and melancholy and entirely how you hope Kafka's heart would behave, damn, Joyce sure knew how to take smutty letters to the next level.

Franz Kafka to Milen Jesenk, 1921 - 
“No, Milen, I beg you once again to invent another possibility for my writing to you. You mustn’t go to the post office in vain, even your little postman — who is he? — mustn’t do it, nor should even the postmistress be asked unnecessarily.
If you can find no other possibility, then one must put up with it, but at least make a little effort to find one.
Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire.
Remembering that one extinguished fire with clothing, I took an old coat and beat you with it.
But again the transmutations began and it went so far that you were no longer even there, instead it was I who was on fire and it was also I who beat the fire with the coat.
But the beating didn’t help and it only confirmed my old fear that such things can’t extinguish a fire.
In the meantime, however, the fire brigade arrived and somehow you were saved.
But you were different from before, spectral, as though drawn with chalk against the dark, and you fell, lifeless or perhaps having fainted from joy at having been saved, into my arms.
But here too the uncertainty of trans mutability entered, perhaps it was I who fell into someone’s arms.”

James Joyce to Nora Barnacle, 1909

“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.
You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over to me with a whore’s glow in your slumberous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometimes too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.
Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.”

Extraordinary Efforts #1

"It takes an extraordinary effort to keep going, when everybody's saying to you, 'No one wants to see that kind of movie'"

Charles Burnett in conversation with Terrence Rafferty, 2001

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Romance #2

"If I am looking for a story at all, it is in my relationship to the subject - the story that tells me, rather than that I tell."
Bruce Davidson

I should warn you: one day, when I can do any damned thing that I please; when I've made my film adaptation of Faulkner's 'Wild Palms'; when I've completed a quintet of films set along the equator; and, when I've remade Sixteen Candles as a four hour minimalist masterpiece - all to wild acclaim - I am going to make a film about the period of time Bruce Davidson spent photographing the kids in the Jokers gang in Brooklyn and Coney Island throughout 1959. It will be about art and crime, love and lovers, killing time and taking photographs. It will be great. The best thing I ever do. You are going to love it. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Festivalia #2

The wanderings continue. From the coast of the Atlantic to the coast of the Pacific and onto Tahiti, in French Polynesia, suspended, crystalline, in the middle of the world.

We missed planes and got stuck in wrong countries. We screened our film and sweated in the heat, we bonded over booze and late night swims with filmmakers from around Oceania. We sang tropical karaoke at the Mayor's residence and talked shop with distributors and broadcasters from Fiji, French Polynesia, Samoa. We listened to the continual sound of music and sound drifting through air thick with hibiscus. We watched incredible stories from communities linked by the threat of environmental collapse and met and adored filmmakers with unquenchable desires to connect and unquenchable thirsts for drinking, dancing and talking. We ate bucketloads of the impossibly delicious poisson cru. We petted sting rays that swirled through the water and drove insanely fast with locals who thought they were driving slow. All of it, all of it, was too good to be true. 

A door opens when your film is accepted into a festival and you get to mill around with audiences with no expectation and no relationship, and when they appreciate it, even love it, it is an indescribably beautiful thing. Best to drink it in, drink it dry, because this has to be the good stuff of life, the stuff to remind you to keep beating your head against the many different walls. Surely it is also film's entire reason for being; To have it seen. To have it affect people or get under their skin or rankle them or seduce them. To have it passed from the darkness of production to the light of the darkened screening room. As a myopic filmmaker, a stressed out workaholic, you have to breathe deep and be aware of the intense good fortune of experiencing these things, these days, these night. Breathe in thanks. Breathe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Romance #1

'Bruce Davidson. Kiss. 1959.'

Bruce Davidson. What a lord. I could lose myself in his photographs for ever.
Happy belated Valentine's Day all you lovers, lusters, romantics, sleazebags, and unconsolable adorers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anything in Between

“I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.”
Francois Truffaut

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This Era

"It breaks my heart to have this era come to an end."

Gena Rowlands, earlier today, on the passing of the mighty Ben Gazzara.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Things I Have Learnt

Things I have learnt about Paris:

• in general, life, and specifically, a trip to Paris, is more fun with a bunch of Colombian filmmakers and intellectuals.
• the air is colder here than anything I have previously known.
• even iceskating - which I have previously recalled as the domain of boons, dry rooters and cockwacks - is achingly cool here.
• the bookstores sell photo books I've only ever dreamed of.
• people feed me cheese and preserved meats I've only ever dreamed of.
• the light is as good as all those novels, poems, photographs and films would have you believe.
• my vivid memories of being here at 18 and 19 and unsuccessfully chasing girls, life, cinema, literature and poetry are not to be trusted.
• churches are still mostly boring, except for the gory stuff.

Here are a handful of photos.